Thai tourism officials have dusted off a proposal to create a “travel bubble” with 22 provinces in China, although the Public Health Ministry still appears to have no interest in it.
Travel bubbles – the idea that two countries with well-controlled coronavirus situations could exchange tourists without them needing to go through 10-14 days of quarantine – were all the rage in June and July. But the world’s summer surge in coronavirus cases popped bubble hopes.
Increasingly desperate to jump-start the economy and tourism industry, Thai officials are looking to their golden goose – China – to see if there is interest in a Bubble 2.0.
Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn said he is prepared to coordinate with China’s embassy to create a bubble that would cover 22 provinces and 800 million people on the mainland where Covid-19 has been dormant for more than 150 days.
Pipat said he believes Thailand is prepared to handle any coronavirus cases that may emerge and the benefit of reopening to some tourists outweighs any public-health risk.
He said he’d like to see the Cabinet approve the measure by year-end as a “new year’s gift” to Thais.
The Public Health Ministry, however, is still focusing on quarantines with a plan to reduce the current 14-day isolation period to 10 days and even seven days if no second wave emerges. There has been no public discussion by that ministry about travel bubbles.
Pipat said the current restrictions and regulations will make it hard for Thailand to attract even 2,000 tourists by year-end, even though the country has reintroduced a single-entry tourist visa worldwide and launched the long-stay Special Tourist Visa program.
Travelers on either visa still must go through quarantine and jump through numerous other cumbersome and expensive hoops to be allowed to travel here.